I have written a number of previous notes about various forms of drug testing and the role of clinical labs in this area. My focus has primarily been on testing in the workplace and direct access testing (DAT) available on the web. I recently came across an interesting article about drug testing in boxing (see: Trend or Coincidence? A Testy Situation) and below is an excerpt from it:
On the last two big shows of 2006 in Las Vegas, both Orlando Salido and Omar Nino would test positive for banned substances in their systems after participating in title fights. Salido...had steroids (nandrolone) found in his system, and ... Nino would come up positive for methamphetamine, more commonly known as 'crystal meth'....They will both be subject to fines, are currently under indefinite suspensions, and their status as title holders is up in the air....Has boxing gone the way of other professional sports, where use of illicit aids is common? And has usage increased recently?...In the past, steroids were mostly distributed in murky, dark avenues under the cloak of darkness or in the backroom of weight-lifting gyms. But now the development and distribution of these products isn't just exclusive to the black market or the underworld....[According to an expert], "[t]he real way to test people is to do it like the way they do in the Olympics, which is to spot-test people before the contest. They can do it weeks out or they can do it the week before or several days before. Some commissions will do it at the weigh-in, some will do it before the fight."
It seems to me that the use of performance-enhancing drugs has now become ubiquitous in the world of sports, both amateur and professional. This suggests to me that, going forward, the norm will be a cat-and-mouse game with new drug testing regimens and technologies on the athlete/performer side countered by strategies on the enforcement side to neutralize any new and perceived advantages.
My own pessimistic view of this situation is that the majority of sports fans are not deeply bothered by the recurring scandals and are most interested in record-setting performances on the field. In other words, they are generally content to turn away and ignore both the ethical aspects of the problem and also the potential health consequences for the athletes.
Continuing with my pessimistic view, the major purveyors of drug testing programs (Quest and LabCorp) view this line of business as a major source of revenue and as a "service" to the sports world. Their solution to the problem will generally be a recommendation for more and enhanced testing regimens. Inevitably, the legislators will step into the process and achieve little other than perhaps currying favor with those voters who demand that they do something. Any suggestions?